A Short Biography of Kjell Qvale

Kjell Hammond Qvale was born in Trondheim, Norway in 1919, migrating to the United States with his parents in 1929. He graduated from the University of Washington and served during the war as a Commander in the US Naval Air Transport Service. After the war, casting about for something to do, Qvale noticed the spindly MG sports cars which were then starting to appear in small numbers around California. He fell in love with them, and then he realized that many other Americans who had not had much exposure to British cars would also fall for them. He set up an MG car dealership in San Francisco in 1947, later adding Austin, Morris, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce and Jaguar to the line-up. Qvale's motoring interests grew and grew and he was instrumental in setting up the Sports Car Club of America, reasoning that if people saw the cars racing and winning races, they would be further motivated to buy them from his salesrooms. Qvale's interest in cars paralleled his interests in sporting activities of other kinds including tennis and horse racing. Among Qvale's stable of British cars that followed was the Austin Healey which was built by Jensen Motors and sold by BMCD in large numbers. When the contract expired in 1967, Qvale felt the loss and began looking around for something to replace the big Healey. It was this search which ultimately brought him to Jensen. He took a controlling interest in April 1970, ousting Managing Director Carl Duerr, and remained at the helm until the company ceased to trade in 1976. This important period in Jensen history, which saw the introduction of most of the models for which Jensen Motors is remembered today, ended in receivership for the company and a monetary loss for Qvale who moved on to other business interests in the USA. Now in his nineties, he continues to take an active part in his businesses. In retrospect, the Jensen connection may be seen as just one phase in a very long line of enterprises Qvale engaged in over an amazing seven decades. Two books about his life have been published, the latest in 2012. They offer a fascinating view of a fascinating life and are recommended reading for Jensen car buffs.

 

Bio' courtesy of Richard Calver - 2013.